Arts, On Campus

Dancers Perform Despite Showdown Cancellation

After a hectic year of navigating protocols in Brighton Dance Studio and planning choreography over Zoom, dance teams at Boston College were excited when they learned that ALC Showdown would be taking place this year, even if reformatted as a virtual dance showcase rather than a competition. 

But, nearly a month after the AHANA+ Leadership Council (ALC) spoke about plans to hold a modified Showdown, the ALC announced on Thursday that it was canceling the dance event. ALC decided to call off Showdown due to racially biased events that have taken place on BC’s campus this semester as well as challenges dance teams have faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In place of the event, the Office of Student Involvement (OSI) offered dance groups hour-long practice time slots in Conte Forum on Sunday. Synergy Hip Hop Dance Company, On Tap, Full Swing, Masti, Boston College Dance Ensemble (BCDE), Dance Organization of Boston College (DOBC), Phaymus Dance Entertainment, UPrising Dance Crew, PATU, and Boston College Irish Dance all took advantage of the practice times. Each group signed up for individual time slots to perform for an empty arena—a stark change from the packed crowds that usually fill Conte for Showdown in past years. 

But UPrising creative director Andrew Cho, MCAS ’22, said the recent changes did not impact his dance group’s plans. The group chose to use the stage in Conte as an opportunity to perform one last time together before the school year ends. For its Showdown set, Cho said UPrising traded in its typical high-energy dance set and instead focused on conveying a message of how social media negatively impacts relationships through its choreography.

Aided by a videographer, Cho said UPrising will release a video of the group’s Showdown performance the first week in May during the group’s “Waves Week,” which will include five days’ worth of pre-recorded video performances by the group. UPrising plans to release the Showdown performance video on its YouTube channel, Cho said.

Inside Conte, black flooring sprawled across the middle of the arena, allowing dancers to practice socially distanced. Elaborate lighting rigs dangled from the ceiling to light up the stage. Spotlights spun around the stage and colorful geometric lights flashed as the dancers took turns performing on the stage. Unique compilations of songs reverberated through the empty arena, as a lighting and sound crew watched over the performances and helped dance groups set up the lights and sound system.

After preparing its dance for over a month, Masti took the stage at noon to record its performance. The group danced to a compilation of songs, including the chart-topping “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo. Inspired by The Avengers franchise, Masti incorporated traditional Bollywood into its superhero-themed, storyline-driven choreography through Bhangra props called saaps and khundas. 

Masti captain Tanya Walia, MCAS ’21, said the group was looking forward to the livestreamed event previously planned, and was initially disappointed by ALC’s decision to cancel the event. But, Walia and her co-captains, Divya Kumar, MCAS ’23, and Muskan Merani, Lynch ’23, said that the team stands by ALC’s decision.

As a senior, Walia said she was excited to be able to perform one final time after being part of the team for the past four years. 

“It was really a lot more than I could have expected for like senior year in a pandemic to be able to still perform as much as we did, and like an event like this,” Walia said. “So I’m really happy with that.” 

Throughout its session, the Masti dancers hurried off the stage to get a drink of water but quickly ran back to their positions, taking advantage of every minute they had on the stage. After its set, the team gathered in the middle to do a final cheer. The team arranged for a videographer to record its performance and is planning to post the video on its social media accounts, Kumar said.

Next to take the stage was BCDE. The group utilized its practice time to record its three performances. Each performance had its own costume change and was set to its own song, with dance genres ranging from jazz to hip-hop to contemporary modern. Although the dancers had to spread out, they took advantage of the entire makeshift stage, constantly moving and weaving through the space to create dynamic, fluid formations.

“The set … was supposed to be our last year Showdown set, but we had all been really excited about it, and so we decided to still do it this year when we found out that showdown was going to be put on again,” BCDE director Caroline Melvin, MCAS ’21, said. 

The group’s performance focused on female empowerment, challenging societal beauty expectations and advocating for body positivity. BCDE assistant director Isabel Garber, Lynch ’21, said the songs in the set were meant to build upon each other to encourage self-love and self-acceptance.

While the group expressed its disappointment over the lack of a regular showcase, BCDE also recognized why ALC decided not to sponsor the event this year.

“We love Showdown,” BCDE costume designer Margarett Burke, Lynch ’22, said. “It’s one of our favorite BC traditions … [but] we completely understand why it was canceled this year and support ALC’s decision.”  

Although 10 dance groups took advantage of these practice times to film Showdown performances, some dance groups, including Fuego del Corazon, decided not to participate. 

“If only we just had a word of what would be the plan by like January, instead of like March, we would have probably been in a better position to stay in the event, even if it wasn’t a livestream,” Fuego co-captain Arturo Balaguer Townsend, MCAS ’21, said.

In a normal year, Townsend said Fuego would practice three times a week and even ramp up its hours as the showcase approached. In preparation for Showdown, the group would often begin preparing sets three months in advance. According to Townsend, this year dance teams were only informed Showdown would take place about a month before the event was set to occur and restrictions on Brighton Dance Studio greatly cut the teams’ practice times. 

Even with these changes, Townsend said the group was initially planning to participate in Showdown. But he said when it began to seem like ALC and OSI were uncertain of their plans, he said the group’s motivation to participate began to dwindle.

“[ALC and OSI] started to sort of fall back,” Townsend said. “And that just honestly gave us like a little bit of discouragement, because, you know, we were working hard to like work every single hour we could.”

In addition to Showdown, Townsend said Fuego had another performance planned with the BC bOp! Jazz Ensemble. The team recorded a set to a song by the BC bOp!, BC’s jazz ensemble, and the band will livestream its performance in conjunction with Fuego’s recording. Townsend said Fuego’s decision not to participate in Showdown was motivated by both the group’s concerns regarding the new format after ALC withdrew from the event as well as the team’s decision to focus on the BC bOp! set.

“We’re just going to want to end the semester on a good note,” Townsend said. “It’s very important for the team to make sure that everybody feels sort of good about being on the team, everybody feels like not overworked, everybody feels loved.”

Featured Images by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor

Video by Eamon O’Malley and Annie Corrigan / Heights Editors

April 25, 2021